Focus on Pinterest – social network, digital scrapbook or recommendation engine?

All eyes are on Pinterest as it gears up for IPO in June.

The price range has been set (between $15 and $17 per share) with a target valuation of £11.3 billion. According to reports, that’s around $1bn less than it was valued at in a previous funding round.

Wall Street’s Atlantic Equities said this week that it is recommending Pinterest to its clients. Although, it has some concerns as the network’s engagement falls well below those of Facebook and Twitter.

The firm said, it has better potential for driving revenue. Its audience has a ‘higher purchasing intent’ and the platform has ‘superior ad-targeting capabilities’ compared to Twitter.

What is Pinterest, if not a social network? And what can it offer brands? In March, it said it didn’t want to be seen as a social network, but rather as a ‘place for inspiration’.

It’s described as a digital scrapbook, a photo-sharing app, or a search and recommendation engine. The quarter of a billion people who use it every month do so to find ideas. They get inspiration and recommendations on everything from planning a wedding to designing a tattoo. Its advertising revenue per user might be smaller than other networks, but it’s growing. More importantly, it’s users (still fairly heavily skewed in favour of women) have higher-than-average disposable income. They act on their inspiration.

Here are some of the standout findings of research (commissioned by Pinterest and listed on its site) into its user base:

  • 98% of Pinners report trying new things they find on Pinterest, compared to an average of only 71% across social media platforms (Nielsen, 2017)
  • Pinners are 39% more likely to be active retail shoppers—and when they shop, they spend 29% more than people who don’t use Pinterest (Oracle Data Cloud, 2017)
  • Pinterest is an early touchpoint in the path to purchase. It has “a higher ratio of converting impressions that touched the consumer first vs. last, out of any digital, social or search platform” (Neustar MarketShare, 2017)

It’s not all good news. The Times newspaper warns that there’s nothing to stop another network cloning the best bits of Pinterest in the way that Instagram took on Snap. The paper also reminds us that in 2015, Pinterest projected that by 2018 it would hit revenues of $3bn (the actual figure was £756 million) and 329 million users (actual figure 265 million).

In its favour, it’s never had to face a select committee. It’s never had to face down accusations of interfering in elections. It’s never been accused of having too much control over the content we see. If Facebook is falling out of favour, perhaps Pinterest’s moon is about to rise.

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